Chicago is Cowtown Cat's Kinda Town
The rich just get richer. Todd Pletcher already had a powerhouse stable of Kentucky Derby hopefuls before arriving in Chicago. With the likes of Scat Daddy, Any Given Saturday and Circular Quay, firmly entrenched on the Triple Crown trail, his seemingly endless talent of horse flesh found its way to the Hawthorne winner circle when WinStar Farm’s Cowtown Cat went gate to wire in the 50th running of the $500,000 Illinois Derby. The 11/8 mile Grade 2 event for 3 year olds was timed in 1:51. 1 over a track listed as fast.
The race may have been decided seconds after the gates sprung open, when Cowtown Cat, under Fernando Jara, left sharply while even money favorite Cobalt Blue broke a fraction slow. That left Cowtown Cat alone on an easy lead, the opening quarter in a dawdling 24.4 seconds. “I didn’t expect (to have the lead) but there was not a lot of early speed”, said Todd Pletcher assistant trainer Seth Benzel. “I told Fernando to try and break well and place him forwardly. Fernando rode him perfectly.” Cowtown Cat continued on an uncontested lead though a half mile in 49.2 seconds and then repelled strong stretch runs from eventual 2nd and 3rd place finishers Reporting for Duty, and Bold Start, respectively, to remain well clear, 2 ¼ in front when they crossed the wire.
The victory brings Cowtown Cat’s lifetime winnings to $488,463 while winning his 2nd straight graded event, his 3rd win in 4 starts and earning a likely start in next months Kentucky Derby.” I think this colt is right there with the best of Todd’s 3 year olds. We’ll discuss it with him and find out where his next race will be”, Benzel explained.
For runner up Reporting for Duty, it was a perfect trip to finish second and left jockey Chris Emigh elated with the performance. “We saved ground the whole way. He made a run and I got excited a little bit. I was surprised they let them go that slow. He tried but he just couldn’t get by.”
Third place finisher Bold Start was also the beneficiary of a pretty good trip but may have just been a race or two away from his best effort. Veteran Jockey Larry Melancon said, “ The trip was fine. He was a little rank because we were going slow and he likes to run at horses. He did try hard, but remember he was coming out of shorter races. It was a good race for him.”
As for the favorite Cobalt Blue, the seventh place finisher in a field of nine, it was a disappointing effort that left jockey Victor Espinoza scratching his head. “He was spinning his wheels out there”, Espinoza offered for an explanation. The Santa Anita invader never really mustered a serious challenge and the performance probably forced the Merv Griffin owned colt off the Kentucky Derby trail.
For Todd Pletcher, who won his 3rd Illinois Derby in only 5 attempts, the arsenal which is his 3 year old stable continues its relentless march to Kentucky.
Cowtown Cat-$9.00 $5.20 $4.60
Reporting for Duty-$16.20 $7.40